The smaller varieties of Daffodils are becoming increasingly popular for a number of reasons. Marketing has much to do with the popularity, but gardeners are also better informed as the the wide range of bulbs that are now available.
Dwarf daffodils can be used in beds, borders, containers, in the lawn , in woodlands, and of course - as indoor plants.
They are also grown widely by the trade now for the early spring gardening trade. Mini daffodil bulbs are easy to produce in pots - so a very good option for nurseries to grow, and for garden centres to sell.
They are reliably in flower - oblivious to most weather conditions - from mid-January onwards as 'potted plants' in most garden centres.
Other than size, there is little difference between the dwarf or mini daffodils and their big brothers and sisters. The colour range is predominantly yellow, but there are several shades of yellow, different trumpet shapes, and habits of growth. Some of the dwarf daffodils are virtually collector's or specialist's bulbs - sometimes having to be afforded the protection of a cold greenhouse - or alpine house. Those specialist dwarf bulbs are not dealt with here. Mini daffodil bulbs for the Alpine collection is a very specialised subject - not simply putting a few daffs in the greenhouse. We talk now of the generally available and commonly planted daffodils which are available to all gardeners - for most situations in the garden.
Dwarf Narcissus or Daffodils - they are one and the same, with Narcissus being the proper botanical name - can be grown virtually anywhere in the garden where other plants grow - they can also be planted in some areas where other plants do not normally grow! At the bases of house walls for instance where the summer soil is often too dry, dwarf daffodils will often flourish. This is mainly because their natural habitat, is where the soils are dry in the summer months.
They can also be planted in areas where the soil is too shallow for normal planting -such as stony ground - or even below a few inches of gravel. Now there's an idea for a gravel garden path! Use the earlier flowering varieties such as Tete a Tete, and they will flower at a time (February) when the garden path is not too often used, and will be over and done with by the time the path is back to normal use. Plant them at the edges of course.
Generally, dwarf Daffodils are grown as permanent fixtures - at the front of shrub borders, in rockeries, brightening up the otherwise 'dead' herbaceous borders, bringing cheer nearer to the house in patio pots. The possibilities for mini Daffodil bulbs are endless. And, the bulbs are generally reasonable prices so experimenting is not out of the question. just plant a few in a new environment. If successful (likely) they can be left to multiply - and they all do that. If not successful (rarely) then dig them up after flowering and replant elsewhere.
Planting of Dwarf Daffodils - such as the Narcissus cyclamineus in the image - should take place as soon as possible after end of August. This will allow the roots to get established in their new home before the winter proper sets in. as with virtually all bulbs, they should be planted at a depth that is around twice that of the actual bulb. So for many such bulbs the planting hole will just be a few inches deep.
The only exception to this planting depth, is if the bulbs are planted in patio containers or window boxes. Add another inch (2.5cm) to the depth of planting. This seems to help!
They will start to show above ground level as soon as January. No need to email us worried about that - even if very cold. It is normal. Some bulbs even start to show though in late December.
Many Dwarf daffodil bulbs are bought in the early spring - as pot grown clumps of several bulbs per pot at garden centres and nurseries. If you didn't get round to buying the bare bulbs in August/September, pot grown bulbs are the next best option.
Yes, it is a more expensive way of buying bulbs, but they are so appealing at this normally dead time of year, that they are rarely on the garden centre display for more than a few weeks. The growers are clever, in that they stagger the plantings so that they can have saleable pots of bulbs right through until Easter or so.
The thing to remember with pot grown bulbs, is that they should be re-planted in their next year's position as soon as possible - not simply leave them in their posts. That is unless you simply want them for a temporary display for a few weeks. It is a good idea to give the foliage and roots a few liquid feeds after flowering. the roots will have been confined in the posts, so not able to replenish the food reserves in the bulb - which will soon be going into 'hibernation'. Same as squirrels and hedgehogs - but during summer instead of winter. We all know that the mammals have to have a good fest before hibernation to see them through. So it is with bulbs!
You can carefully divide the clumps of bulbs - some root damage is inevitable - but they will settle in to their new home better if the clusters are prised apart. make sure that you plant the nose of the bulb below soil surface level. In the pot grown clumps, they will have been planted more or less on the surface. Ok for a year, and cheaper to grow that way for the nurseryman. Smaller pots, less compost = less cost! The flowering clumps also have a bit of a novelty value when seen grown like that. That method is NOT for permanent plantings.
Because of their dwarf stature, Daffodils such as Narcissus Tete a Tete - which are probably the all time favourite mini daffodil bulbs - are superb for planting in the lawns. The stocky little plants do not suffer from the strong winds or pouring rain rain like their taller counterparts.
Another positive advantage of Dwarf daffodils naturalised in lawns, is that they are generally early flowering - so sooner to die down - when the planted area can be mown sooner than if it were planted with the normal size daffodils.
You can either dig up sections of the turf - messy - or simply dig out a small hole with a trowel or buy a special bulb planter to help you with the job. get them planted in early autumn - as soon as you can obtain them from the garden centre - or mail order.
Remember where you plant them in the lawn, so that you do not trample the new growth that starts to emerge just after Christmas. If you trample the foliage - and frisky dogs running the lawn are probably the worst culprits - there is a chance you will also damage the flower buds, which will be just below the surface.
Because of their popularity, breeding work is being carried out all the time for new varieties. These will be expensive, and not necessarily much different to the standard varieties if planted enmasse!
Narcissus Tete a Tete is so easy to grow, and always a mass of flower, that it has become the 'standard' dwarf daffodil. It deserves that place, and will be sure to please, Quick to establish and good in the lawns or around trees. Normally around 6-8in tall and a sturdy growth habit. The trumpets are normally upright rather than drooping.
Narcissus cyclamineus - seen above - is better if not naturalised under grass. But it can be grown almost anywhere in the garden. Very dainty habit and appearance. Greta for the Patio Pot - where it will create a lot of visitor interest. Drooping trumpets - but showy if in the right place.
Narcissus Tresamble - is a creamy white with a pale yellow trumpet - Good one this!
Narcissus Minnow - As you woukld expect from the name - a dwarf white but with canary yellow shallow trumpet - likes to look up - so vary attractive
Narcissus Thalia -Pure white - a little stunner, and probably my personal favourite (after Tete a Tete)
Narcissus Jet Fire - thoroughly deserves that name. Deep gold with orange trumpet.
Narcissus Rip Van Winkle is different. Very different. Ok its a golden yellow - but flowers are more like a cactus dahlia - but smaller!
Whichever Dwarf Daffodil Bulbs takes fancy. Get to the garden centre early. Pre-order them if you can, or start buying them from the mail order catalogues in January - for next year flowering, and the current year planting.